JOHN LENNON & A YEAR OF STRAWBERRY FIELDS PHOTOS (I shot while living there & don’t hate me Jared Leto filming Chapter 27th)

I lived in NYC 2005 – 2007 (for several months at 68th & CPW) when I was on a work assignment in NYC. At least once a week I would walk by Strawberry Fields (72nd Street & CPW) to snap the ever changing memorial to one of the greatest songwriters, John Lennon.

December 8, 1980 was an unusually warm day in New York City. John Lennon was up and about early, first to his favorite haunt, Cafe LaFortuna, for his morning coffee then to the barber before returning home.

He would then do an interview for the BBC before a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz for Rolling Stone magazine. Lennon was pronounced D.O.A. in the Emergency Room at the Roosevelt Hospital at 11:15 p.m. by Dr. Stephen Lynn.I lived at 68th & CPW for a year when I was on a work assignment in NYC. At least once a week I would walk by Strawberry Fields (72nd Street & CPW) to snap the ever changing memorial to one of the greatest songwriters, John Lennon.
Above is the Dakota where he lived with his wife Yoko and son Sean, in the top middle apartment. On the anniversary of his death she lights two candles and places them in the window. Occasionally she will walk over to Strawberry Fields, but will always show up on the anniversary of his death.

The Central Park memorial was designed by Bruce Kelly, the chief landscape architect for the Central Park Conservancy. Strawberry Fields was inaugurated on what would have been Lennon’s 45th birthday, 9 October 1985, by his widow Yoko Ono, who had underwritten the project. The entrance to the memorial is located on Central Park West at West 72nd Street, directly across from the Dakota Apartments, where Lennon had lived for the later part of his life, and where he was murdered. The memorial is a triangular piece of land falling away on the two sides of the park, and its focal point is a circular pathway mosaic of inlaid stones, a reproduction of a mosaic from Pompeii, made by Portuguese craftsmen as a gift from the city of Lisbon. In the center of the mosaic is a single word, the title of Lennon’s famous song: “Imagine“. Along the borders of the triangular area surrounding the mosaic are benches which are endowed in memory of other individuals and maintained by the Central Park Conservancy. Along a path toward the southeast, a plaque on a low glaciated outcropping of schist lists the nations which contributed to building the memorial. Yoko Ono, who keeps apartments in The Dakota, contributed over a million dollars for the landscaping and for the upkeep his devotees, including Gary an unemployed 1980’s Iraq War vet, adorn the memorial everyday. Gary told me that he visits the local florist shops, and corner stores every morning. He tells them what he’s going to do, but most know by now, and they give him whatever he wants to decorate Imagine.
I often visited Strawberry Fields because I truly believe in the song Imagine and everything it stands for, it’s another take on living by the “Golden Rule”, something I really try and achieve, although I do slip occasionally.
I never change the station when Imagine or Happy Christmas (War Is Over) is played

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

at some point they put up security gates as there was a section where the tiles began to crumble from people standing on it to get pictures, but thankfully they removed them. But I certainly look at this shot as if the concept of Imagine is imprisoned and we as a society are failing to live out the concept that the world could live as one.
December 8th marks the 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon. In this week leading up to the anniversary, many in the media including CNN are taking a look back at that fateful day. It’s a story that 30 Seconds to Mars frontman, Jared Leto knows uniquely well. Leto played John Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman in the film “Chapter 27”. Although the film got mixed reviews and brought on a firestorm of criticism, Jared has talked in interviews about how important it is to take a look at the psyche behind madness. The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2007 and had a limited release in 2008.
While I was living near the Dakota they were filming the movie, right in front of the Dakota. It was crazy they could do that, but I guess it’s a public sidewalk and if you get the right permits you can make a movie.
Lindsay Lohan and Jared Leto filming the Chapter 27. Leto gained 60lbs to play the part of Chapman. Lohan’s character was fictional and had the role of shadowing Chapman. I never saw the film.
John Lennon’s 25th Anniversary of his death 2005. I waited in line for 2 hrs to walk by the memorial, it was about 20F out,

every once in awhile people would break out in song, usually singing Imagine.
It was an awesome experience which I repeated the following year too, but the line was much shorter. I imagine tonight the line will be off the hook again.

a video about Gary & Strawberry Fields which was made 3 years after I photographed him and wrote about him on my Confessions of a Paparazzi blog which I maintained while I lived in NYC. I was one of the first people to write about him, as he was reluctant to the publicity as he had had a rough life, but I’m not going to go into the details. So I am so thrilled that someone did a documentary about him, as I did get to know him well since I went so often. So when you go to visit Strawberry Fields, say hi to Gary. Tell him HughE from Philadelphia says hi.